Throughout its history Major League Baseball has endured scandals of varying degrees. The latest, of course, is electronic sign-stealing the Houston Astros conducted during their 2017 World Series season, and what the Boston Red Sox remain under investigation for.
After former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers alleged the Astros installed a camera in center field at Minute Maid Park that was used to pick signs and relay them to batters by hitting a trash can, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and his investigators set out to determine the validity of the claims.
A three-month process led to MLB uncovering the Astros were guilty of the misconduct, resulting in multiple penalties for the franchise. While jarring, the cheating scandal is not the first MLB has dealt with.
As former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Carl Erskine noted, his 1951 Brooklyn club was a victim of similar circumstances, via Ben Walker of the Associated Press:
“If they’re going to go back to 2017 with penalties for the Astros,” he said Wednesday, “then I want them to go all the way back to 1951 to help us.”
Erskine is alluding to the New York Giants erasing a 13.5-game deficit to win the pennant, which immediately prompted the Dodgers to question their rival:
“We thought something was going on, we were suspicious, but we couldn’t prove anything,” Erskine said from his home in Anderson, Indiana. “I remember Ralph said to me, ‘I bet those dirty birds are cheating.’”
It was later revealed by Giants players that they did steal signs, which Erskine was not surprised by given the relative ease to do so at the Polo Grounds:
“A batter wouldn’t even have to move his head,” Erskine said. “It was right over the pitcher’s left shoulder. Just shift your eyes to about 2 o’clock and you’d see it.”
Rumblings of the Giants’ sign-stealing surfaced in March 1962, when an unidentified source who was with the team during that contested season discussed it. In 2002, players went on the record to confirm the cheating.
The Giants stealing signs culminated with the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” supplied by Bobby Thomson when he hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to win a best-of-three playoff for the National League pennant and break the Dodgers’ hearts.
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